Liberty A-League Round 15 Match Review

The Wellington Phoenix have fallen to another agonising one goal defeat in this season’s Liberty A-League.

For the fifth time in 12 games the Phoenix have been beaten 1-0, this time by heavyweights Sydney FC at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.

The Sky Blues scored the deciding goal little over 90 seconds into the second-half, after a scoreless first 45 minutes.

Sydney FC are back up to second on the A-League ladder, three points behind Western United but with a game in hand, while the Nix remain five points adrift at the bottom.

Wellington head coach Natalie Lawrence says “it’s a tough one to take”.

“We’ve become a little bit like 1-nil specialists,” Lawrence told media post-game. “That one felt almost harder than the one against Western Sydney.

“There is just something about this Sydney team. They’re so successful, they have some really good players and we wanted to be really, really hard to play against.

“To concede again from a set piece. It’s just those little moments where you lose concentration and good teams punish you.

“We’ve just got to be more switched on. I thought we’d been starting the second halves particularly well, better than the first halves, and today it was the other way around.”

The Sky Blues dominated the two previous meetings with the Phoenix and Lawrence is proud of the progress her team is making,

“I thought first-half we were outstanding. I thought we had better chances.

“I haven’t seen the off-side goal, but everyone said that it was, so I’ll trust this one. But she hit that amazingly. I thought Mickey Robertson had a fabulous game.

“Last season it was 3-nil, 5-nil, today 1-nil [and] we really, really competed.

“We keep going. The season’s not done for us, we keep going right until the end.”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 26: Natalie Tobin of Sydney leads the team out for the round 15 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC at North Harbour Stadium, on February 26, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

Natalie Lawrence made two changes to the XI which started the Phoenix’s last match before the international break, with Michaela Robertson and Kate Taylor returning in place of Paige Satchell and Betsy Hassett. Hassett was ruled out with a suspected concussion suffered while on Football Ferns duty.

Back-up goalkeeper Georgia Candy also suffered a suspected concussion at training on Saturday and was replaced on the bench by Corina Brown.

It was a first-half of few chances. Nix ‘keeper Brianna Edwards was required to make just the one save in the 16th minute, pushing away a long-range shot from Sydney forward Prince Ibini-Isei.

The rest of the Sky Blues’ shots in the first 45 minutes were either off target or well blocked by Wellington’s defenders, with Michaela Foster’s last-ditch effort 10 minutes from halftime being the pick of them.

Robertson was a constant threat for the Phoenix and she registered the team’s first shot of the match in the 19th minute.

The Nix enjoyed a good spell around the half hour mark. Sydney did well to cut out a threatening cross from Robertson before blocking a goal-bound shot from Grace Wisnewski.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 26: of the Phoenix during the round 15 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC at North Harbour Stadium, on February 26, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

Sydney ‘keeper Jada Whyman made her first save five minutes from halftime, stretching to gather in a glancing header from Marisa van der Meer, who had pushed forward for a free-kick.

Robertson beat Whyman shortly before the break with a delightful chip, but the goal was called back for offside and it remained 0-0 at halftime.

Sydney coach Ante Juric responded by making a change, bringing on Rachel Lowe at the start of the second-half in place of American striker Rola Badawiya.

Lowe made a near instant impact, breaking the deadlock in the 47th minute from three yards out when the Phoenix weren’t able to clear the danger from an early corner.

Edwards made a good save shortly after to deny Sarah Hunter from a free-kick and keep the Nix in the game.

Wellington had a great chance to draw level in the 57th minute when Wisnewski slipped Robertson through on goal. Unfortunately for the Phoenix, Robertson skied her shot over the bar.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 26: Paige Satchell of the Phoenix is tackled by Natalie Tobin of Sydney during the round 15 A-League Women’s match between Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC at North Harbour Stadium, on February 26, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

Lawrence made her first change soon after, bringing Paige Satchell on in place of Milly Clegg. Alyssa Whinham and Emma Rolston came off the bench a quarter of an hour later as the Nix searched for an equaliser.

Brianna Edwards ensured the Sky Blues’ lead remained a slender one. She was quick off her line to beat Lowe to the loose ball in the Wellington box in the 78th minute and then produced an acrobatic save to deny Cortnee Vine Sydney’s second.

The Phoenix had a chance to equalise in time added on, but Whyman did well to smother Satchell’s shot after the Football Ferns forward burst into the Sydney box.

It was to be the Nix’s last goalscoring opportunity, with Sydney FC holding on to secure their ninth win of the season.

The Wellington Phoenix will return to Wellington tonight before quickly turning their attentions to Saturday’s round 16 match against Brisbane Roar at Sky Stadium.

Wellington Phoenix: 
12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR (10. Alyssa WHINHAM 74th), 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (c), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD (16. Emma ROLSTON 74th), 11. Betsy HASSETT, 17. Claudia CICCO (2. Saskia VOSPER 86th), 20. Milly CLEGG (13. Paige SATCHELL 60th), 21. Michaela FOSTER.
Unused substitutes: 50. Corina BROWN (gk).

Sydney FC: 1. Jada WHYMAN (gk), 3. Charlotte MCLEAN, 5. Kirsty FENTON, 6. Sarah HUNTER, 11. Cortnee VINE, 12. Natalie TOBIN (c), 15. Mackenzie HAWKESBY, 19. Charlize RULE, 20. Princess IBINI-ISEI (7. Teigan COLLISTER 88th), 21. Shay HOLLMAN, 25. Rola BADAWIYA (8. Rachel LOWE 46th).
Unused substitutes: 30. Katie OFFER (gk), 2. Mary STANIC-FLOODY, 4. Anna GREEN.

8. Rachel LOWE (Sydney FC) – 47th

11. Cortnee VINE (Sydney FC) – yellow – 44th
4. Mackenzie BARRY (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 54th
5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 63rd